Somethings are just delightful combinations to come across. Even more so, when they are unexpected. Mature and humble. Aware and prepared. Focused and yet omnivorous. You can almost hear it, just listen….The Fourth Valve is pleased as punch to be delving into music, auditions & excellence with Erik Lundquist. Enjoy!
1. You have had three main teachers: Bowman, Lipton & Lundquist. What did you learn from each?
My first teacher was my father, Rick Lundquist. He is currently a retired middle school band director. He was my beginning teacher and also, along with my mother, instilled a love for music within me. Through playing in the community band that he conducts and conversations around the dinner table I learned quite a bit about wind band literature throughout all levels.
My first euphonium teacher at the University of North Texas was Dr. Jamie Lipton who currently teaches at Henderson State University in Arkansas. While I was at UNT to study with Dr. Brian Bowman, as a freshman, I took private lessons with Jamie and we had freshmen group lessons with Dr. Bowman. Jamie prepared a scared little freshman to be able to play for Dr. Bowman throughout my first year of study. When I think back to the different teachers that I’ve had a lesson with I always try to think of at least one thing I learned from them. One of the best things I learned from Jamie is that not all notes in a measure are created equal. That was really the beginning of the serious attention that I gave to learning style in wind band excerpt preparation.
My major euphonium teacher at UNT was Dr. Brian Bowman. He has created me to be the player that I am today. I experienced and learned from his tireless work ethic, commitment to improvement, exceedingly high standards, and seemingly endless amount of euphonium knowledge. I admire him as a player and teacher, but most of all I admire his character. He’s the kind of person that makes you want to be a better person. The most important thing that Dr. Bowman taught me to do, and one that requires continuous work and improvement, is to listen. One of his most famous quotes is, “Do you hear the difference in that?” My most common response was, “No.” At that point we might spend a large majority of the lesson playing the opening interval to the Boccalari Fantasia di Concerto, or Holst’s First Suite in E Flat. That was when I was lucky enough to play more than one note in a row before he corrected me. He was unrelenting in his standards. Another one of the things that I looked up to the most was the fact that he was still practicing and working on fundamental aspects of playing. I believe that we as students have an even greater respect for our teachers when we see them working as well.
2. The ITEA Mock Audition, 2nd in The Falcone; you had some success with competitions early on. What was your youthful mindset and preparations like for these? How did they help with auditions?
My mindset in participating in competitions is quite simple. They provide a concrete goal with a firm deadline. Like many people, I work best with a clearly laid out objective and a time period in which to complete it. I also find competitions to be quite exciting. It’s a great way to be active in our field and to meet other people along the way. It’s rare that a euphonium competition or professional audition isn’t a fun reunion with friends! I also think that competitions helped with auditions because auditions work very similarly except that instead of solo music it’s excerpts.
3. What is your ideal tone, and how do you work towards it?
My tone that I strive for is based on Dr. Bowman’s Seven Characteristics of a Good Sound.
1 Center (Core)
2 Intonation (Pitch)
6 Air Support
7 Air Flow
I work towards these things by listening to great players on many different instruments. I do listen to great euphonium players of different eras, but I also listen to great players of strings, woodwinds, brass, and vocalists. Usually I find out about these people by looking up recordings of solo pieces that are on the calendars of major symphony orchestras. I think of the sound of a great player being involved with my euphonium sound to create my personal tone quality.
4. How do you conceive of breathing in general, and especially with regards to phrasing?
I try not to overthink when it comes to breathing. I tend to have the problem of paralysis by analysis, so I try to keep it simple. I’ve been to so many masterclasses with great players and teachers that discuss breathing and I’ve taken things that work for my situation. When it comes to something physical I just try to think of an unobstructed airway with my inhale striving for an “oh” syllable. I think of the lungs as balloons that fill up 360 degrees and expand the ribs all the way around the body instead of a pitcher that only fills up vertically. With that in mind I think of the simple phrase, “Air in, air out.” I try not to focus too much on the inhale and instead think of how long I need to play and let my body naturally take in air. The phrase I think of here is, “Blow until you stop.” That helps me keep my air moving throughout the entire phrase. Unfortunately, in this case the conical-bore euphonium can be more forgiving with stagnant air than something like a cylindrical-bore trombone, so from time to time I need a reminder. I like to think of the air moving horizontally through the phrase while the time remains vertical.
5. I have a few mindset approaches to teaching. The first is: all students can learn and it’s our job to teach them. I prefer to think of an inward-looking approach when a student I’m working with is experiencing issues. What can I provide for them so that they can improve? Also, have I skipped a step in teaching them a concept that allowed for an unsuccessful result, and if so, what is it? One of the other approaches is that I must meet the student on their level and teach them in their most successful learning style to improve. Lastly, not all students learn at the same pace. Continuous quality improvement is what is most important. One of the phrases that I think of here is, “Not all cookies are done at the same time.” The people that have really taught me these approaches to teaching are my euphonium teacher Dr. Bowman, as well as my cooperating teachers that I worked with during my student teaching in Richardson, TX. Those people are Frank Troyka, Chris Pineda, and Lynne Jackson.
6. Over the years you’ve taken several auditions-many successful; how has your approach changed?
For each audition that I took over the years I strived to work as hard as I could at the level where I was at that time. For some auditions I did many mock auditions with friends at UNT, and for others I focused more on individual practice. The biggest aspect that became the most refined throughout the whole process was back to what Dr. Bowman was trying to teach me all along: listening. I became better at listening back to recordings of myself and pinpointing what it was that needed to improve. Along with that, I learned how to perform in the correct style of each excerpt that was asked of me. I shouldn’t play a march in the same style as Grainger’s Colonial Song. I learned how to better differentiate those pieces by something more than tempo and dynamics. I listened to high quality recordings of pieces that I could use as a model. Being confident in the work that I was doing with listening and style really helped me to make improvement with auditions.
7. Which three or four recordings have influenced you most as a musician?
There are so many great recordings out there that have had influence on me. Some of them are:
The Sacred Euphonium – Dr. Brian Bowman, euphonium, Dr. James Welch, organ.
American Variations – Dr. Brian Bowman, euphonium, Cincinnati Wind Symphony, Eugene Corporon
Edouard Lalo – Symphonie espangnole – Itzhak Perlman, violin, Orchestre de Paris, Daniel Barenboim
Bela Bartok – Concerto for Orchestra – Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Fritz Reiner
8. What has your ITEC experience been, and what do you tell students who think of attending? Any favorite memories?
My ITEC experiences have been fantastic! I couldn’t recommend attending enough. This is where the top players and teachers in our field come together to share and learn with others. It’s a great place to meet other people just like you who are crazy about the euphonium or it’s a place to get inspired if you’re feeling lackadaisical about the euphonium! I recommend that all euphonium and tuba players attend at least one ITEC in their lifetime. One of my favorite memories was performing with the UNT Euphonium Choir at ITEC 2014 at Indiana University. It was a great tribute to the work that Dr. Bowman has done for the euphonium and for all of his students.
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